Wheelchair race makes students roll with the punches

Ever wondered what it’s like to be confined to a wheelchair with no help?

Students at Long Island University found out when they took to one during the Great American Wheelchair Race at Long Island University last month using the aids to travel in and around the college in a timed contest to raise awareness about people with disabilities.

More than 60 students crisscrossed the 11-acre Downtown campus at the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb avenues, trying to perform everyday tasks, including traveling in and out of buildings and elevators, wheeling along narrow hallways and even visiting the bathroom to retrieve toilet paper.

The tasks were assigned to them at stations posted around the campus where they also learned about hearing loss, visual impairment, learning disabilities and sickle cell anemia.

“It became 10 times harder to get the toilet paper when you couldn’t really sit down in the stall with a wheelchair,” said Cindy Dufort, 22, a junior who participated in the race.

Dufort said she completed the course in just over half an hour — a route that would normally would have taken her just 10 minutes.

The race was “an eye-opener” for students, said Dr. Elaine Winslow, who teaches psychology and development. “It showed them what it’s like for a person who has these kind of challenges to compete in today’s job market and just living life,” she said.

Nursing student John McNeil won the challenge in 21 minutes, and was awarded a set of athletic wear, plus major bragging rights. The person who came last finished the course in just under an hour.